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Legislation to ensure restroom access passes Illinois House
2019-05-21

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Legislation to modernize Illinois law to ensure single-occupancy restroom facilities are designated as gender neutral passed the Illinois House of Representatives Tuesday, said Equality Illinois, the state's civil rights organizations for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals. The legislation, which applies to public buildings and places of public accommodation, now goes to Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker for his consideration and approval. If SB 556 is approved by the governor, Illinois would join California, Vermont, and New Mexico in having an equitable restroom law on the books.

"A simply yet powerful bill, SB 556 will provide privacy, security, and convenience to users of single-occupancy restrooms, including individuals who may need the assistance of a caregiver, people with disabilities, parents with opposite-sex children, and transgender people," said Myles Brady Davis, Communications Manager and Press Secretary at Equality Illinois.

"Furthermore, compliance with the bill is simply a matter of changing a sign on a restroom door," said Brady Davis. "We are already all very familiar with gender neutral single-occupancy restroom facilities. Passengers on airplanes and trains already use gender neutral single-occupancy restrooms with no problems."

"The Chicago Restroom Access Project was established in 2015 with the goal of passage of public policy regarding conversion of gendered single-stall restrooms to all gender," said Phoenix Matthews, co-founder of the Chicago Restroom Access Project ( CRAP ) and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "We are extremely pleased that the gender neutral restroom bill has successfully passed in Illinois. It is very powerful to see what a small but determined group of stakeholders can help to accomplish." The Chicago Restroom Access Project is a working group of the Pride Action Tank of Chicago.

Sponsored by State Sen. Melinda Bush ( D-Grayslake ) and State Rep. Sam Yingling ( D-Round Lake Beach ), SB 556 unanimously passed the Illinois Senate on April 11. The Illinois House passed SB 556 with a bipartisan vote of 109-05.

"Thank you Sen. Bush and Rep. Yingling for your leadership on SB 556," Brady Davis said.

The value of equal access to single-occupancy restrooms is increasingly being recognized. Presently, the Illinois Plumbing Code requires gendered facilities. However, this standard is archaic and contrary to evolving building standards and the everyday experiences of people who use single-occupancy restrooms.

In 2015, the United States Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration named gender neutral single-occupancy restrooms as a best practice in the workplace. SB 556 is also consistent with changes to restroom designation standards initiated by the International Plumbing Code in 2018 and International Building Council in 2019. SB 556 mirrors laws in California ( 2016 ), Vermont ( 2018 ), and New Mexico ( 2019 ).

Businesses support gender neutral single-occupancy restrooms. According to a survey conducted in 2017 by the Chicago Restroom Access Project, 79% of business owners in Chicago found it totally acceptable to update the current law to ensure single-occupancy restrooms are designated as gender neutral. Additionally, 51% thought such changes to law would have a positive impact on their business, and 39% thought it would have no impact.

SB 556 is supported by the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, Chicago NOW, Chicago Restroom Access Project, Equality Illinois, Illinois NOW, Illinois Pipe Trades Association, National Association of Social Workers-Illinois Chapter, Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, Pride Action Tank, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana, SEIU Illinois Council, and Sierra Club-Illinois Chapter.

SB 556 would take effect on January 1, 2020.

About Equality Illinois

At Equality Illinois we envision a fair and unified Illinois where everyone is treated equally with dignity and respect and where all people live freely regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. We work hard to promote legislation to protect the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning ( LGBTQ ) individuals; maintain the visibility of LGBTQ issues; oppose legislation which seeks to limit the civil rights of the LGBTQ community; and expand statewide grassroots support.

—From a press release


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